Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: The Last Chapter

Short Update on Life and Health

I can’t believe it was just above 70 degrees Fahrenheit today! Though it won’t stick around yet, it’s a sign that Spring is just around the corner. D and I enjoyed several outdoor walks in the last two weeks. The photo at the top shows crocus exploding out of the cold ground in our back yard.

As for my daily priorities, they’re simple: sleep, eat, exercise, write, play music, and read.

My heart seems to like this agenda, though it gets tired now and then. I just finished reading a memoir about living with atrial fibrillation. The author is in her early 80s, and has lived with AFib just about as long as I have. Her situation isn’t mine. Still, her straightforward approach to doctors emboldens me to ask more questions, and expect more evidence before consenting (or not) to go down this or that path.

As for my social life, it’s not number one on my list. Nonetheless, I now have several female friends I can visit with. No fixed agenda but talking, and going out for a walk as possible. Just what I was aching for. Also, with warmer weather I’m able to stay connected with a couple of my neighbors when I’m out walking.

Writing is easy, or it isn’t. No middle ground. The biggest challenge at this age is identifying in my behavior echoes of what I experienced when I was a child and teenager. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between what was done against my will, and what I do today. I’m grateful for regular phone conversations with a friend who has helped me for years. It’s hard work. A bit like filling in the gaps in my life, though I don’t always like it.

As for music, I’ve let my piano coach off the hook. He teaches at a local university, and ended up with more students and commitments than he could handle this spring. However, I’m going gung-ho on my own, practicing regularly and loving it! Right now I’m hooked on J.S. Bach’s piano compositions. I have three well-worn (from childhood) books of preludes and fugues, enough to keep me busy for rest of my life.

If you’re interested, here’s info on the book I mentioned above: In a Heartbeat: The Ups and Downs of Life with Atrial FIB, by Rosalie Linver Ungar.

I hope this finds you content and grateful for the life you’ve been given. It all flies by quickly. Thanks for being part of my life, especially in these later years I’m calling The Last Chapter.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 March 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, 14 March 2019

Looking for friends

During the last several weeks I’ve been restless and lonely. I’m sleeping better and feeling more energetic than I have in the last four years. The weather, on the other hand, has been wildly unpredictable, requiring more in-house activity than usual. Still….

Retirement is heaven on earth. Right? Wrong.

My body has changed and my age keeps creeping ever higher. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t return to academic life with its regular access to interesting students and colleagues. My retirement playground sometimes feels like punishing confinement.

As a child and teenager, I felt left out and lonely most of the time. Not invited to parties, not allowed to go to movies, and not allowed many close friends. Not that there was a long line knocking on my door.

I thought I was over those childhood feelings. Yet they came crashing in on me this past week. Triggered by more than one conversation about a wonderful dinner party or get-together I knew I couldn’t attend even if I wanted to.

The truth is, I don’t want and can’t survive a busy social life. Neither do I want to become someone’s project. I want women friends. A few interesting, trustworthy women. Not for a fabulous dinner out, a trip to the latest show, or even to reminisce about old times.

I’m past the years of being a hostess. I’m beyond cleaning up for company, or trying to transform myself into the social butterfly I’ve never been. I’m also beyond being part of a church visitation team.

This is about connecting in person over a cup of tea or glass of water, going for a walk or not. It’s about regular face to face time with women who might also feel left out, forgotten, or simply in need of female company.

And no, I don’t expect you, my readers, to solve this for me. Though perhaps some of you have felt this way from time to time?

Thanks for taking time to listen.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 March 2019
Photo found at nationalpost.com

For women of a certain age

Restless mind and body
search for direction –
Ways to speak into the void
of life counting down –
One day and night at a time
Relentless

Heaviness hangs on my eyelids
I want to sleep – or do I ?
Maybe I don’t want to be
Awake

It’s easier that way –
And who would know the difference
between sweet sleep and
fear-driven avoidance?

For what was this body/soul created?

Maybe I missed something
In the directions for women
of a certain age and temperament

I’m more than a statistic.
Writing when Awake is dangerous.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 February 2019
Photo of sunset in the Black Forest found at pixabay.com

Evensong

My feet ache
relieved and resting
The humidifier hums
in the background
Soft cotton
envelopes each leg

Pajamas are my
evening friend
holding me close

Wrapped in
my mother’s shawl
breath comes
and goes easy

The old house creaks
beneath D’s feet

Whatever today
was about slips
away with each
exhaled breath
cleansing this
body I call home
sweet home

Today I went to see my Lucy Pacemaker heart doctor. As expected, my irregular heartbeat is growing with each passing year. I don’t like it. I am, however, grateful for each day and night I’m given.

While sitting in the doctor’s office I reviewed my recent journal entries. Then I read and reread a chapter from Upstream, a collection of Mary Oliver’s essays and poems. She describes how she moved beyond difficult situations of her childhood. Her solution was twofold: immersion in the natural world, and in the world of literature. As she describes it, these were “the gates through which I vanished from a difficult place” (p. 14).

So here I am, near the end of my life, finding myself living more and more in the worlds of music and writing. My own and that of others. My pared-down yet equally exciting (to me) version of upstream living. Leaving behind, yet drawing on the unsolvable puzzle of my childhood almost without noticing it.

I wrote the poem above just before Christmas. There’s something magical about capturing in words the simple wonders of my life. I might enjoy wandering in a forest somewhere. However, I choose to stay close to home. Close to D and Smudge. Close to the bone. Close to this last fling. Close to my journal and my heart.

Thanks for reading and listening.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 February 2019
Photo of Milky Way Night Sky found on pixabay

A broken heart

Days pass swiftly.
Time seems to be speeding by.

Yesterday I read another chapter from Mary Oliver’s Upstream,
and felt small and late in coming to this place.
Not by informed choice, but from neglect,
and ignorance about this world.

Held back. Stunted. Fenced in.

Living at best a half-life of external demands, distractions,
and danger looming around every corner.

Unsafe. Captive to other’s ideas, attitudes and power.

Now near the end, it seems
I lived a half-life that wasn’t entirely mine.

On quiet days I long for another opportunity to live
and taste life on my terms, from the inside out,
not as a timid onlooker into the lives of others.

Am I ungrateful?
Or just sad….even brokenhearted.

Perhaps a broken heart is a beginning, not the end.
That, and playing the piano as though
for the very first time.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 February 2019
Photo of path in Ireland found on pinterest.com

Making music from my heart

Last November I gave myself a 75th birthday gift – a piano coach! So here’s an update on my progress so far.

  1. I’m totally motivated to play the piano, though not the way I used to play it.
  2. Though I haven’t yet met with my new piano coach, I’ll soon begin working with him once a month.
  3. I’ve gone through most of my piano collections, have chosen five for starters, and am already practicing regularly from them.
  4. I’ve also been reading The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart, by Madeline Bruser. It’s phenomenal. Just what I need right now.
  5. Not surprisingly, my attitude toward life in general is changing, too. More from the heart, less from my to-do lists.
  6. My happiness/contentment quotient is on the rise.

Below are the five collections I chose for starters. I first worked with them in the 1950s when Mrs. Hanks was my piano teacher.

  • J.S. Bach: Two-Part Inventions, and The Well-Tempered Clavichord (Book 1)
  • Frederic Chopin: Preludes for the Piano (Book IX)
  • Felix Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words
  • Pianorama of the World’s Favorite Dances, compiled & arranged by Denes Agay for Piano

Here are three things I’m working on from The Art of Practicing.

  1. Mistakes (when playing the piano) are part of life. They aren’t the end of the world. Get used to them, and get comfortable with other people hearing you make them. I don’t like this, but I’m learning to live with it.
  2. Speed and agility will (or will not) come in time as my fingers are (or are not) ready. Forcing things, or assuming I can do now what I did 60 years ago) only makes things worse. As I already know. Sigh.
  3. Don’t get in a tizzy about speed and dynamics. Slow down. Ignore dynamics for now. Do what you can from your heart. Love the sound of each note and listen for the music within, not for what seems to be on the page in front of you. Trust your fingers to let you know when they’re ready. Magical!

Finally, I’m learning to accept the hands and flexibility I have now. This means some music I used to play is beyond me. No amount of forcing my fingers will guarantee the return of my youthful fingers. On the other hand, I just might be surprised down the road if I’m willing to take it slowly, without super-expectations.

Thanks for visiting, and Happy Wednesday to each of you!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 January 2019
Image found at pinterest.com

Listening to the sound of my soul

Listening to the sound of my soul
I reach for the sky and deep into earth
Stretching strings and finding notes
I never thought I would hear or play
No overnight miracles promised
Just the overwhelming satisfaction
Of moving a fraction of an inch
Closer to the woman I now am
And the young girl I longed to be

Years pile on one after another
I pause for a slow deep breath –
Raising my head and sinking my feet
Down into the ground beneath me
I reach up and out one more time for
Improbable dreams already dancing
Within my soul by heart and on pages
Of this body of graceful ligaments
Listening for the sound of my soul

With thanks to Eugene Louis (Luigi) Faccuito for this quote: “To dance, put your hand on your heart and listen to the sound of your soul.” Luigi had a long career as a dancer, choreographer and dance teacher. Most of it against great odds, due to physical challenges and limitations.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 December 2018

Dancing in the face of partisan politics

Pray tell me
How do I dance
In the face of partisan politics
Straining to separate me
From other human beings

And how do I dance with freedom
In the face of threats
To undo me
Or you
Or us

Age and health
Weigh heavily on me
As does diminished ability to move
Freely on my own

And this dance floor seems too small
To hold my aching heart
Longing for more
Than I can ever accomplish

Or perhaps
The ‘more’ is already here

Behind and around me
Invisible
Doing what You intend it to do
Making its way unseen in
Bits and pieces I gladly gave away
And passed along so that
They don’t belong to me
Anymore

As health issues come creeping or crashing into my life, I feel like fighting back. Making sure I’m still out there, doing my thing. I feel the tug of wanting to make a difference.

Perhaps it’s time to rest, dream and even drift through each day. Grateful for living this long. Grateful for opportunities to connect with neighbors near and far.

It seems slow dancing is what’s called for. Listening to internal and external music. Connecting with family, neighbors and strangers. Reading. Listening. Praying for the next generation. And writing my heart out. Preparing for whatever is around the next corner.

Elouise

Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 November 2018

A vision for the last chapter

What is my vision for Telling the Truth? Many thanks to Lea, one of my followers, for this question!

As it happens, it’s timely. Not because I’m changing course, but because I’m finally beginning to feel I’m on course. Not that I was totally lost. I wasn’t. I was, however, writing what I needed and wanted to write to get from there to here.

So now here I am, in the final chapter of my life. Now what?

Here’s what I envision going forward.

No matter what I write, each post will love, honor and respect my voice at this age, not someone else’s and not the voice I think you might prefer to hear. I can’t control what happens when you read what I write. Nonetheless, I want my posts to encourage, challenge or cheer you along wherever you are. Just the way many of you cheer me along with your distinct voices.

I can’t do this if I write in a whisper, halfheartedly, coyly, or with malice. Or if I choose not to write about something because it’s controversial.

Rather, I envision my voice coming straight from my heart, with my mind acting as a midwife, not as a gatekeeper. I can’t afford speaking from fear, or with too much confidence.

Whatever I choose to write, I envision it having heart and soul up front. Poetry. Commentary about the state of things in this world. Memories. Photos I love. Self-reflection. Devotional writing. All of it.

This vision challenges my family upbringing, my college years, and most of my graduate work and teaching years. If I learned anything well, it was how to speak and write strategically. It was exhausting and harmful to my health. It also demeaned my voice and was unfair to my audience.

At my age, it would be foolish and self-defeating in the extreme to leave things festering in my mind that need clear expression. It isn’t about being or sounding sure of myself. And it isn’t about changing you or anyone else.

This is about loving my voice. Standing up and having my say, without fear or shame.

To those who follow and read regularly, I can’t thank you enough for your presence in my life. If you’re visiting, I hope you’ll consider joining this group of diverse human beings scattered around the globe. Whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together. And my pledge to you is that I’ll dish up whatever’s happening in my small corner of the world.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 June 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser, June 2018 – Oak-leaf Hydrangea blossoms in our front yard

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